Students Arrive in Grade 10, Knowing How to Read a Bit but Basically Nothing Else
I've never posted, but I've been lurking for years, and I'm a teacher in Canada. I've taught both elementary and high school for 10 years and in 5 provinces, and I'd say the doomers are mostly right. And by all accounts, public schooling works better in Canada than in the US.
Elementary school is a colossal waste of time for children of average intelligence or higher. Math and reading are basically the only subjects anyone cares about. Math proceeds agonizingly slowly, and elementary school teachers generally don't understand any of it, and so resort to teaching algorithms they have memorized. I had a co-worker come to me with her son's 2-digit-by-2-digit multiplication, baffled as to how he could be getting in right without following the steps. He was doing the 10s first and then adding the 1s, but to her this seemed like magic.
As for reading, no one seems to actually know how to improve a kid's reading level beyond "extra help," which means more time reading aloud the same three 10-page books over and over again until the kid memorizes them and then aces the comprehension test.
Because math and reading are all anyone cares about, and because interest-in-things is uh, not a priority for the vast majority of elementary school teachers, social studies and science, where kids actually learn about reality, exist only as formalities. This means that average-and-lower students never get the base knowledge required to really understand any non-fiction media that is not explicitly didactic, which is massive handicap if you care about learning.
Middle-school is a hormonal hell-hole of petty-crime, sexual exploration/exploitation, and binging Minecraft videos (STEM!), so by the time students arrive in grade 10, they know how to read a bit but basically nothing else. If kids stayed home and did nothing until grade 10, they might know a bit less than they do now, but they wouldn't know much less, and the billions saved would make up for it.
Both teachers and students believe that the main purpose of high school is to give out marks, both groups having tacitly admitted that actual learning is too much bother. Thus, from grade 10 on, outside of vocational training (hairdressing, video editing, welding, etc), 3 years of what amount to intelligence tests ensue, and everybody gets the same result every time, year after year, because school can only give you information- it can't make you smarter. Kids earn basically the same (grossly inflated) marks every year, barely advancing in writing ability, reading ability, or mathematical ability. Granted, the smartest ones learn some chemistry and physics, but nothing those same kids couldn't have gotten from Khan Academy in a fraction of the time.
EDIT: With regard to woke capture, a vocal minority of teachers believes that the purpose of school is to undo the legacy of residential schools, which you can look up on your own but for now understand that they are the Canadian political equivalent of slavery. Solemn land acknowledgements begin each day, there are English classes where all works are by indigenous authors, there are lots of ahistorical new-age professional development courses, indigenous coordinators, etc. It's hard to say how sincerely held this belief is, since publicly demonstrating one's guilt and responsibility for the legacy of colonialism has become the preferred strategy for those teachers seeking to become administrators. On the other hand, my English department denounced a student as racist because, having read a story in which an indigenous woman refuses to declare Canadian or US citizenship at the border and instead claims to be a citizen of her tribe, the student voiced the opinion that the border guard was right to refuse her entry. This was not "what you're supposed to think when you read the story."
The administration believes school has two purposes: The first is to be a "safe space," mainly for the legions of girls that have developed debilitating anxiety from trying unsuccessfully to harmonize their delusional aspirations with their mediocre abilities (but never in the obvious, low-stress way), but also for girls who claim to be nonbinary and the few girls with more traditional problems of abusive families and addiction, etc. Boys don't get a lot of attention.
The second is to enhance the prestige of the administration by poaching kids from other public schools. We therefore have public schools competing with each other, and since teacher pay in Canada is quite high, there is little money left over to fund programs or facilities, so all that is left is providing better customer service (inflating marks, lowering requirements, etc).
The only things that keep me from leaving it all and going to sea are the pay (nearly 100k per year in Canada- this system is hugely expensive) and the fact that I teach French, which can not be efficiently self-taught, and so is actually somewhat effective (but again, only for the smartest students). The French program also attracts motivated students (though the most motivated avoid it because it is harder, and so depresses averages) so much of the systemic absurdity passes me by. The woke capture is present, but avoidable, but because of all the other issues, I'll live on the street before my own kids will go to school.